• 15th Annual Smithsonian Museum Day

     The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) will open its doors free of charge to all Museum Day ticketholders on Saturday, September 21, 2019 as part of Smithsonian magazine’s 15th annual Museum Day, a national celebration of curiosity in which participating museums emulate the free admission policy at the Smithsonian Institution’s Washington DC based museums.

    The theme of this year’s Museum Day is the Smithsonian Year of Music, celebrating music as a reflection of human creativity and innovation as well as a key method of communication and cross-cultural exchange and understanding.  The Smithsonian Year of Music crosses disciplines, bringing together music-related resources in art, history, culture, science, and education.  At HMTC’s state-of-the-art museum, you can view one of the “instruments of survival,” an accordion donated by Holocaust Survivor Alex Rosner.  Rosner learned to play the accordion while imprisoned and attributes his musical talents to his survival.  Rosner and his father spent time at Oskar Schindler’s factory prior to their deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau and are depicted in the 1993 film Schindler’s List.

    For more information contact HMTC at (516) 571-8040 or visit Smithsonian.com/MuseumDay.

  • Speaker Spotlight: Liberator Seymour Kaplan

    seymour-kaplan

    One of the speakers at HMTC’s program, Rescue Beyond War: Unknown Military Heroes, on Sunday, October 30, 2016, at 2 p.m. will be WWII liberator Seymour Kaplan. At 17-years old, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and left Brooklyn to fight against Nazi Germany. He became a machine gunner with the 692 Tank Destroyer Battalion attached to the 42nd Infantry Division. At the end of the war, he was one of the first American soldier to enter Dachau Concentration Camp in April, 1945. As a Yiddish speaker Mr. Kaplan served as a translator for the camp Survivors. The shock of what he witnessed traumatized him for the rest of his life.

    When Mr. Kaplan returned home to New York, he established a garment manufacturing company, eventually retired, and then began a second career as a teacher. He is a mental health advocate and has been honored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

    The program is held in memory of Chevalier Herman “Hy” Horowitz, former liberator of Ohrdruf and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Other speakers will include Gary Lewi, founding board member of the Museum of American Armor and the American Airpower Museum. In addition, there will be a special exhibit, GIs Remember: Liberating the Concentration Camps, curated by the National Museum of American Jewish Military History with accompanying artifacts from the HMTC archive.

    There is a suggested donation of $10 to attend. For more information or to RSVP contact Deborah Lom at (516) 571-8040 or email dlom@hmtcli.org.

     

  • Kristallnacht Commemoration and Re-Dedication of Holocaust Torah Scroll

    Torah Restoration Project 

    in cooperation with International Synagogue at JFK

    Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County

    Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center (HERJC)

    presents

    Kristallnacht Commemoration
    and
    Re-Dedication of  the “Kara” Holocaust Torah Scroll

    Monday, November 9, 2015, at 6:30 p.m.

    Torah and Cover

    Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center
    295 Main St., East Rockaway, NY 11518

    generously underwritten by Farrell Fritz, P.C.

    Admission is free but RSVP is requested.
    RSVP online at www.TorahRP.org or (516) 232-5946. Photo ID required for admittance.

    Two Bar Mitzvah boys, Jesse Herrnson and Adam Polokoff, raised funds to restore a 170-year old Torah scroll. Rescued from Germany, the scroll was buried underground just prior to the outbreak of “The Night of Broken Glass” on November 9, 1938. 77 years later it will be reintroduced to the Jewish community for ritual use. Rabbi Dan Wigodsky, who restored the scroll, will speak about the restoration process.

    Community Partners (in formation):
    AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy
    Hadassah, Nassau Region
    Friedberg JCC, Oceanside
    Mid-Island JCC, Plainview
    Samuel Field JCC, LIttle Neck
    Sid Jacobson JCC, Roslyn
    Schechter School of LI, Jericho and Williston Park
    Selfhelp Community Services, NY
    Sulam-LI, Oceanside
    The Brandeis School, Lawrence

  • My Journey to Auschwitz

    My Journey to Auschwitz – By Helen Turner

    Auschwitz

    My heart felt like it had been ripped out. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing. Before me stood a case, the size of half a room, filled from floor to ceiling with human hair. This hair was all that remained of countless victims of Nazi atrocities at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

    What struck me most about my reaction was that I have seen this hair before. I specialize in material culture in Auschwitz-Birkenau and have seen countless images of human hair which was taken from Nazi victims. However, seeing these human remains in person, standing in the haunted grounds of Auschwitz, changed my perspective on Holocaust education forever.

    This summer I had the privilege of travelling with the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants on an educators trip on Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. This incredible trip would last fourteen days, spanning from New Jersey through Germany, Poland and back again. I was accompanied by 25 educators from across the United States and three incredible leaders who would shepherd our group through the physical and emotional terrain of the concentration camps.

    Auschwitz4

     

    After eleven days of museums, concentration camps and Holocaust memorials we arrived in Auschwitz. For me, this was a place to fear. Auschwitz has loomed large in my mind due to my research and personal connection with many Auschwitz Survivors. The emotional complexity of experiencing the camp first hand daunted me as we pulled up in our bus. To my surprise, the information center was packed. It was a busy day for visitors and eerily the smell of cafeteria food wafted from the center, a stark contrast to the starvation that was experienced here 70 years prior. Our group was quickly outfitted with headsets and a tour guide. We began to make our way through the visitors area and approached the notorious entrance of Auschwitz. The gate loomed before us, surprisingly smaller than my imagination had conjured but menacing none the less. We passed through and were greeted by stone barracks, the first buildings of Auschwitz 1. These barrack s currently serve as a museum of the camp and it was here that we encountered the physical evidence of the murder of over 1.1 million people. We encountered room after room of possessions: shoes, pots, combs and hair. The devastation became manifested in what remained; the echoes of life. It was here I experienced the first punch to the gut. That hair. That hair that represented so many victims; mothers, daughters, friends. Human beings who were stripped of their dignity before death. I will never forget that hair.

    Auschwitz3

    After completing the museum we made the short drive to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The infamous death camp was so large and encompassing it stuck me as a movie set. How was this possible? The vastness, the economics that went into the destruction of human beings. It didn’t make any sense. It still doesn’t. Our group walked among the barracks and stood within the buildings that housed prisoners. As we stood discussing the appalling living conditions of inmates rain, fat and heavy almost hail-like smacked the roof. To stand in that eerie space, hearing the rain attack the roof, to hear what those poor people must have heard on similar rainy days brought a reality to the moment which I had been struggling to grasp.

    Auschwitz5

    We then walk the same steps thousands took to their deaths; from the railway tracks, past the camp to the final stop, the gas chambers. While the chambers and the crematorium were destroyed by the Nazi’s during their hasty retreat the remains emanate pain and suffering. From here we walked to our final destination, a memorial to those murdered at Auschwitz. It was here that candles were lit, kaddish was said and I recited the names of my friends who suffered here: Claire Heymann, Annie Bleiberg, Werner Reich, Alex Rosner and Ruth Mermelstein. In that moment, surrounded my new friends in a foreign county, my heart broke.

    As I sit here today, writing this blog I am still journeying to Auschwitz. It is a life-long journey to understand, to comprehend. My trip to these haunting camps has changed me. My eyes have been opened, my heart has been shattered and my knowledge has been expanded.

     

  • From the Archives

    This past summer, I’ve been working at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center as the resident archivist, organizing the Center’s collection of artifacts and relics from local survivors and their families. That work included describing contents and researching the background events surrounding certain items. I’ve found the experience like no other, and now continue to help organize the archive.

    I learned about the HMTC last year, at the LGBT center in Garden City where I volunteer. Senior Director of Education and Community Affairs, Beth Lilach offered docent training to volunteers for a traveling exhibit there, and we started talking. That’s how I learned about the organization and its archive; I was still in school, and needed experience with an archive -so I signed up.

    Without a family history tied to the Holocaust, my understanding of the period was from high school history classes. It was something I understood as a major part of history, but not something I’d identified with; certainly not something I expected to end up working with. But the HMTC had an archive in need of help, and I was in need of an internship. Plus, it seemed like a good cause, and I thought I could help.

    When you hold a relic in your hands, the events become personal. I’ve held passports that allowed refugees to leave Germany and survive. I’ve held handwritten reference letters from the relatives of refugees, assuring that their loved one will find work if they’re allowed to come to the U.S. These items give the events a more personal gravity I hadn’t met before; it almost made me afraid to touch them, like they’d dissolve in my hands.

    Still, I’m glad I’ve had the chance to help the HMTC better understand their collection. In fact, with the research involved in learning more about some of these artifacts, it’s easy to get carried away. I’ve gotten to learn about some amazing lives and triumphs against this dark historic period.

    For me, one of the most memorable finds was the dog tag of WWII veteran Jim Van Raalte, who helped liberate one of the concentration camps. Visitors will recall letters and other items from Raalte in the museum’s permanent collection. I’m hoping that this item will one day find its place by their side.

    And there’s more to come. In the future, we hope to make artifacts in the Center’s collection more visible to you. Not just here, but in the museum’s collection and during programs too, including the upcoming HMTC tribute to liberators in June, 2014.

    If the Center’s mission is one that connects to you, and one that you want to be a part of, by all means, come in and volunteer. And if you’ve got something unique to offer, a talent or skill set you think could help the center, offer it up.

    Share your comments, and let me know what you think. Any ideas on how to bring these treasures to life?

    Christopher Boire is a Nassau County resident from Baldwin Harbor. He’s just received a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Long Island University, with a BFA from NYU.